Have Democrats, in their concentration on protecting illegal immigrants, overlooked key areas of concern to the Latino/Hispanic community, which makes up 17% of the U.S. population?
Party leaders have made an important political calculation. They are gambling that the way to gain the support of the vital and growing numbers of Latino-American voters is to take an absolutist stand on immigration issues.
That approach may not prove successful with the Latino community.
A key example of a major Latino issue which Democrats ignored in their emphasis on illegal immigration is the extraordinary plight of Puerto Rico. Despite a $780 billion “stimulus” package, President Obama failed totally to address the island’s woefully deficient electric grid.
The inadequacy of the island’s fragile and antiquated electrical system was made abundantly clear in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It should not have come as a surprise, since the grid’s shortcomings have been long known. 538 notes that,
“Electricity is generally a reliable service in the United States. Data from 2015 shows that, on average, Americans could expect a little more than three hours a year in which their electricity wasn’t working properly. But Puerto Rico is a different story. There, the 2015 goal was to have no more than 9.6 hours of outage per customer, and the utility still wasn’t able to meet that goal. At the same time, Puerto Ricans pay higher prices for electricity than almost everyone else in the U.S. — nearly 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential customers, compared with a U.S. average of about 13 cents per hour. In July, only three states paid more.”
Only 3% of Obama’s stimulus funds actually went to infrastructure.
According to a 2016 Pew Hispanic analysis of its standing with the Latino-American community,
“Latino registered voters have long said the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos or Hispanics than the Republican Party, with Democrats losing some ground on this measure since 2012. Over the same period, Democrats have not made significant gains in party affiliation, with 64% of Latino voters identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party in 2016, a similar share to 2012 when 70% said the same. [...] There are some differences in the views of the political parties among demographic subgroups of Hispanics in 2016. For example, older Hispanics are more likely than younger Hispanics to say the Democratic Party has more concern for Hispanics than the Republican Party. Among registered voters, nearly six-in-ten (59%) non-Millennial Hispanics (ages 36 and older) say Democrats have more concern, compared with 48% of Hispanic Millennials (ages 18 to 35). At the same time, Hispanic Millennial voters are more likely than Hispanic non-Millennial voters to say there is no difference between the parties, 38% compared with 21%. (Roughly equal shares of Hispanic Millennial voters and Hispanic non-Millennial voters – about one-in-ten – say Republicans have more concern for Hispanics.)
There are also differences on this issue by gender, with 60% of Hispanic women voters saying Democrats have more concern for Hispanic than Republicans, compared with 48% of Hispanic men who are registered to vote."
The League of United Latin American Citizens notes that Latino-Americans,
“Care about the issues that affect their friends, families, and neighborhoods. Yet, if we look at the way media, politicians, and the general public portrays Latinos, you would think that the only thing Latinos care about is immigration reform. This is simply not true. Like any other demographic in America, Latinos are deeply concerned with other issues. In fact, when determining their presidential candidate, 33% of Latino chose “jobs and the economy” as the top issue to consider. Only 17% believed immigration was the most important issue. Education and healthcare were also two other major issues."
Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.